Immigrant Family Separation Is An Effect of Efforts to Make Human Nature Illegal

Immigrant Family Separation Is An Effect of Efforts to Make Human Nature Illegal
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In his book Since Yesterday, The 1930s In America, author Frederick Lewis Allen alerted readers to an interesting statistic about immigration during the first half of the decade.  From 1931 to 1936, “the number of aliens emigrating from the United States had been larger each year than the number immigrating.”

Allen’s stat rates mention given the historical truth that the U.S. has nearly always been a magnet for outsiders.  Except that this wasn’t as true in the 1930s, and it similarly wasn’t true from 2009 to 2014.  The common denominator that ties to the two five-year timeframes together is that the U.S. economy was, at least by American standards, notably weak from 1931-36 and 2009-14.  Let this be a lesson for lawmakers who promise to fight “recessions."  For them to fight recessions is for them to prolong the pain.  Recessions are the cure

Which brings us to the question of immigration.  When the U.S. economy is weak, the outflow of non-citizens exceeds the inflow.  It’s a simple reminder that the only way to keep immigrants out of the United States is to crash the economy so substantially that few would want to come here in the first place.  Along these lines, readers can rest assured that Guatemala, Haiti and Congo don’t have a so-called “immigration problem.” No sane individual looking to better his economic situation would ever seek opportunity in the countries mentioned. 

At the same time, the tired and hungry do aim to erase their poverty in the United States.  They do because the U.S.’s is the biggest, baddest, most dynamic economy in the world.  This is where poverty is cured.  Contrary to the musings of the thumbsuckers on the left who bemoan wealth inequality from the comforts of college campuses built by the unequal, those who are actually poor view the immense wealth inequality that defines the United States as the ultimate economic feature.  Where people are free to get filthy rich is where people with nothing but the proverbial shirts on their backs can better their own economic situation.  The U.S. is a magnet for the world’s tired and hungry precisely because it’s full of the biggest, most consequential people and corporations on earth.  A bad day for us is Christmas anywhere else. 

It says here that the arrival of the tired and hungry is what makes the U.S. great.  Not only do the world’s strivers come here to cure their poverty, the fact that they come here to cure their poverty is the source of immense U.S. wealth.  That's because risk-taking of the crossing-the-ocean and crossing-the-border variety is part of our DNA.  We descend from the doers, those revolted by complacency, those for whom a day of inactivity amounts to discomfort.  Americans aren’t a race, they’re an ideal defined by action.  It’s no mistake that so many of the world’s greatest innovators are right here in the U.S. No reasonable person can separate our entrepreneurialism from the intrepid immigration that preceded it. 

Still, some disagree.  Some view immigration as a problem.  They feel that government needs to limit the inflow of people.  Others feel it’s a problem because of the existing welfare state.  Despite strict laws against welfare for citizen (at least five years) and non-citizen immigrants alike, and despite the fact that human inflows always decline when economic vitality does, some contend that immigrants come here to easily access government services.  And still others are immigration skeptics given their belief that the inflow of “non-Americans” is wrecking our culture.  The latter is hard to countenance when it's remembered that our culture is an effect of foreigners from all walks of life coming to the country where one can always and everywhere better oneself.  Important here is that none of what’s been said so far, pro or con about immigration, matters.

What matters is that immigration is happening.  It’s happening no matter laws passed, walls built, or federal and state officials armed with ever more lethal guns.  Immigration into the U.S. is happening no matter what given the basic truth that even when it performs sub-optimally, the U.S. economy is once again the biggest, baddest, most dynamic economy on earth.  Because it is, because Americans enjoy living standards that are the envy of the world, there will always be people who figure out a way in so that they too can take part in a freedom concept that has been relentlessly erasing poverty for over 200 years. 

That the U.S. will continue to be a magnet for those seeking better economic opportunity looms large in any reasonable discussion of separated immigrant families.  The latter is plainly an effect of laws meant to fight human nature.  Stating the obvious, it’s human nature for men and women to better themselves economically.  It’s particularly human nature for men and women who are parents to break any laws that would compromise their ability to provide for their children.  All of this speaks to how ridiculous are the present laws meant to limit immigration.  They’re the problem. They’ve made human nature illegal.  Indeed, it can’t be stressed enough that so long as the U.S. economy booms, immigrants will figure out a way in.  The question will only be whether they come in legally or illegally. 

If legally, the need for them to bring grandma, mother and the kids will be greatly reduced.  If we legalize work in the United States such that individuals are free to come and go as opportunities come and go, there will be little need to bring the whole family.  But what if human nature remains illegal?

The answer is simple.  So long as what’s inevitable is going to be policed by federal officials with guns, the incentive will be for dads and moms to bring everyone.  What choice will they have? What’s perilous to enter is similarly perilous to exit, thus necessitating a potentially deadly run across the border for the whole family. One that could include the trauma of family separation, or  sometimes death.  As opposed to limiting the inflow of people, policed borders logically ensure that the number of humans crossing the borders will increase. Along with horrid scenes of separated young ones crying.

As with most things, the answer to a so-called problem isn’t laws as much as it is free markets.  Human nature once again ensures that the U.S. will be a magnet for people so long as its economy booms.  That’s not changing.  What can change is how federal officials address what’s natural.  The solution is markets.  Always.  People come to the U.S. for work.  Legalize entry for work. Watch the number of family crossings plummet if the breadwinner is free to come in and out.  So-called "problem" solved.  

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading ( His new book is titled They're Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America's Frustrated Independent Thinkers. Other books by Tamny include The End of Work, about the exciting growth of jobs more and more of us love, Who Needs the Fed? and Popular Economics. He can be reached at  

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